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Former Florence Freedom player Steve Delabar ‘ready to move on’ from pro baseball to coaching

By Marc Hardin
NKyTribune contributor

Former Florence Freedom baseball player Steve Delabar said Monday night during a Canadian podcast that he is ready to move on from his playing days in order to concentrate on coaching the game at the high school level.

Delabar, 35, is one of four former Freedom players who played at the Major League Baseball level along with fellow pitchers Chris Jakubauskas (2003 Freedom) and Corey Thurman (2005 Freedom), and position player Stephen Cardullo (2012 Freedom). Delabar, a Fort Knox native and Central Hardin High School graduate, pitched briefly for the Freedom in 2008. Following a second tour of the minor leagues, the right-hander was in the majors from 2011-16, pitching in 190 games, all in relief, for Seattle, Toronto and Cincinnati.

Delabar with the Toronto Blue Jays (Wikipedia photo)

Delabar pitched in relief four times for the Freedom in June 2008 before a trade to another independent league, the Canadian-American Association, placed him on a path that would eventually take him to the majors. Before catching on with the Freedom in the Frontier League, he had no other baseball opportunities upon being released by the Padres.

Delabar talked about his major league experience and his stint with the Freedom during a 17-minute chat with Outta the Park podcast host Barry Davis, on-air personality for NSR Media of the Canadian Independent Media Group, which produces Davis’ show.

“Independent ball was the greatest thing I’ve ever done,” Delabar told Davis, who then prodded the Kentuckian about the status of his playing career, asking, “Are you still trying to get back in this game this year.”

“Nope,” said Delabar.

When asked if he was officially retired, Delabar answered, “Yeah.”

But he’s yet to file formal paperwork.

“No, I didn’t file papers,” Delabar told Davis. “But I took over a head high school position back home and I’m ready to move on.”

After one year at Volunteer State Community College, Delabar was a 29th-round draft pick by the San Diego Padres in 2003. The Anaheim Angels took him in the 43rd round of the 2002 draft but he decided to go to college. He began his minor league career in 2004 and played several years in the low minors and in Florence until he suffered a fractured elbow in 2009.

He was back in the minors for Seattle in April 2011 after working as a substitute teacher and an assistant high school baseball coach during a year away from the game. He rocketed through the Mariners’ system in one season and made his major league debut in September 2011 at the age of 28. He was traded to Toronto in the middle of the 2012 season for outfielder Eric Thames. Two weeks after joining the Blue Jays, he became one of the few pitchers in major league history to record four strikeouts in an extra inning.

Delabar had been hinting at retirement on his Twitter page, posting Feb. 1 “a few of my favorite things from playing professional (baseball).” Among the things he hashtagged were baseball, cards, MLB, MiLB, and independent.

Not only is Delabar the last Florence player to pitch in the majors, but he’s also easily the most accomplished. He played parts of six major league seasons and finished with a 15-9 career record with 242 strikeouts in 194.2 innings. He posted a career 4.07 ERA and saved two games. Those totals plus his 190 appearances are the most of any former Freedom player at the big league level.

Delabar was an American League all-star for the Blue Jays in 2013 after winning the final fan vote with 9.6 million votes. Entering the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at the Mets’ Citi Field in New York City with a 5–1 record, 1.58 ERA and an American League reliever-leading 57 strikeouts in 40 innings, Delabar struck out the only batter he faced, 2012 National League MVP Buster Posey, and received credit for a hold. Delabar finished the season with a 5-5 mark and 3.22 ERA. He fanned 82 batters in 58.2 innings.

The Blue Jays released Delabar March 29, 2016. The Reds signed him four days later. He pitched seven games that year for Cincinnati but was released in June. Though an inspiring story, it’s marred by a 2017 performance-enhancing drug suspension, for which he publicly apologized and took full responsibility. Delabar was last with a major league team during a three-month stint last year with the Texas Rangers organization, which released him April 20, 2018. He was hired as Elizabethtown High School baseball coach in June.

“At one point, I didn’t even think a lot of it would be possible,” Delabar said of his stay in the big leagues. “But, after the fact, I said I think I’ve pretty much checked off everything that I could possibly do at the major league level besides sign a long extension or win a World Series, and how many guys get to do that.”

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